What if I told you, the way you listen to another person profoundly impacts their ability to speak, lead, feel confident, and be their best?
I attended a conference for my own professional development last week in Vegas. I really love to provoke my thinking about how to increase my personal effectiveness and the effectiveness of the leaders with whom I have the opportunity to work.
I attended a session on executive brain functioning, which was really fascinating and learned what gets in the way of our being able to collaborate well with others and be as creative and innovative as we really need/want to be.
I had an aha moment and noticed that I’m so busy getting things done, it’s sometimes hard for me step back and carve out time to think creatively versus trying to jam big thinking projects into my calendar like it was just another appointment.
I know I’m not alone as many of my clients struggle with the same thing. Do you as well?
My go-to solution has always been to try and carve out a bigger block of time to think (which is why I take off February and July to write and have strategic thinking time). What I learned in this workshop is that I can access this creative part of my brain more often without having to leave my office and escape, if I can start practicing a bit of self-discipline.
What is executive functioning? The field of Neurosciences tells us that executive functioning happens in the brain’s frontal lobe and is the part of the brain that operates like the brain’s CEO. It’s in charge of making sure things get done helps us organize and act on information.
Why do we need it? Executive functioning helps us:
– Manage our time
– Pay attention
– Plan and organize ourselves
– Remember details aka working memory
– Avoid saying or doing the wrong things
If the executive functioning part of our brain is not working well, our behavior is less controlled and can negatively affect our ability to problem solve, collaborate with others, feel creative, do systems thinking or even feel calm and contented.
The problem occurs when the executive functioning part of our brain is not working optimally, we go into flight, flight or freeze and we feel stressed out, threatened, and sometimes if it’s bad enough, even traumatized.
Logically, we know we know it’s a bad thing to stress or traumatize ourselves, yet most of us do just that on a daily basis without even realizing it.
How to kill executive functioning. The fastest way to kill the executive functioning part of our brain is “cognitive busy-ness”. You know, the many things we do in our lives that interrupt our ability to think. Want to guess the biggest culprit and killer of our brain’s optimal functioning?
Our addiction to our cell phones.
Is this you too? How many times a day, do you grab your phone to look at your email, your social media, or your texts? If you are like most people; it is probably gazillions of times, daily.
I have senior executive as clients, who while in an important meeting are looking at their phones, checking emails, answering texts and sometimes even answering a phone call.
According to the brain functioning experts, this behavior is a no-no and drastically reduces our brain’s ability to process ideas, think, access our intuition, or follow a conversation thread for it’s REAL meaning and make personal relationship connections.
I’d like to share with you an exercise we did in our workshop to demonstrate the severity of the result this behavior has on ourselves and on others. I recommend you try it. It might make you cry too.
1. Pick someone to do this with
2. Select one of you to be the speaker and the other one, the listener
3. Speaker: Talk for 30 seconds about something really really important to you
4. Listener: Your role is to do anything and everything to NOT listen for the entire 30 seconds. Give your speaker a good run for their money, as you don’t listen to anything they are saying. Maybe you surf on your computer or phone, don’t make eye contact, close your eyes, turn your body away from them. You get the idea.
5. Now switch roles and do it again
6. Debrief: How it felt for you both as the speaker and the listener.
Now do the exercise again and when it is your turn to be the listener, listen as if they are the most important person in the room.
Exercise results and implication. Most people say:
• The listener has more power in the relationship and how we listen makes a huge difference to the experience of the speaker.
• The way you listen to me profoundly impacts my ability to speak, lead, feel confident, and be my best.
• My best thoughts come out when I feel like I’m being listened to.
• When I am listened to I feel elevated, capable, intellectually competent and receptive to what you have to say.
I know it’s obvious that we as leaders want our people to be most productive, make decisions, and problem solve at a high level. What if we can impact this in a positive way every single day with every single person we come in contact with and all we have to do is listen as if they are the most important person in the room?!